Best-Rated AR-15 Drop-In Triggers


Updated February 2, 2021

The AR-15 has survived and gained in popularity over its lifetime in spite of some obvious shortcomings. Many of these issues are certainly not platform specific but are seen frequently in many military-style weapons. After all, Mr. Stoner didn't design his AR-15 to be a precision, match-grade contender. In its original evolution, the AR-15 was intended to be a rugged, weapon of war carried by the infantry in less than desirable conditions.

One area that leaves much to be desired in most standard, military-style weapons is the trigger. The fastest way to eliminate this issue is with the installation of an after-market self-contained trigger upgrade. Literally, in minutes you can reap the benefits of a custom trigger job without incurring the cost of a gunsmith. Which would likely be needed if you were to wish to modify the standard fire-control assembly of your AR.


What Is A Drop-In Trigger?

An AR-15 drop in trigger comes preassembled with all its internal parts contained in an aluminum cassette or housing. Now, instead of a puzzle of loose parts that have to be individually fitted together, the modification is simple. Before now, when you wanted to have a great trigger you would have to employ a talented gunsmith in order to achieve any reliable, consistent results. However, now consistency comes right out of the box from a reputable manufacturer in the form of an AR-15 self-contained trigger. When you search for viable modifications that can be made to an AR-15 the choices seem endless. However, if you want a quality, drop-in trigger the number is surprisingly small. Throughout this text, we will explore some of the best options available.


Advantages of A Drop-In Trigger

There are a number of reasons to opt for an AR-15 drop in trigger to modify your AR instead of working with the standard fire control group. Many of us feel the need to tinker around with our toys. Whether it is that old hot rod in the garage or your AR, the need to give it a personal touch is a strong one. However, you must remain within your skill-set whenever embarking on one of these projects. Therein lies the beauty of an aftermarket drop-in trigger. The conversion requires no special skill, just the desire to make a change and a punch.

The self-contained, drop in trigger eliminates the tiny variances that plague the standard trigger group. The unit, when combined as a whole, provides consistency in such areas as creep, overtravel, and trigger reset. The upgrade to an AR-15 drop in trigger also gives you the opportunity to change the trigger pull weight to one that better suits your individual shooting style. Any time you increase consistency in your weapons performance, it inevitably leads to a measurable increase in accuracy and a more enjoyable shooting experience. From a standpoint of expense and time, the addition of an AR drop in trigger is the single-most beneficial upgrade you can make to increase your weapons performance.


Top-Rated AR-15 Drop-In Trigger of 2021

Top AR-15 Trigger



Timney Calvin Elite AR Trigger   



Velocity Classic Drop-In AR Trigger   

3-lb, 4-lb   


JMT Saber Single-Stage Drop-In Trigger   



ATC Adjustable Drop-In AR15 Gold Trigger   



CMC Drop-In Single Stage AR-15 Trigger Group   

2.5-lb, 3.5-lb, 4.5 lb   


Timney AR-15 Drop In Competition Trigger Group   

3-lb, 4-lb, 4.5-lb   


Elftmann Tactical ELF Match Trigger   



RISE Armament RA-535 Advanced-Performance Trigger   



RISE Armament RA-434 High-Performance AR Trigger   



Timney AR Targa 2-Stage Trigger   





2021 Product Review: Top-Rated AR-15 Drop-In Trigger


Timney Calvin Elite AR Trigger with Adjustable Shoes

Pull-Weight: 1.5-lb

Price: $269.96


Timney Calvin Elite AR Trigger with Adjustable ShoesTimney Calvin Elite AR Trigger with Adjustable Shoes 1Timney Calvin Elite AR Trigger with Adjustable Shoes 2Timney Calvin Elite AR Trigger with Adjustable Shoes 3

Timney has dominated the precision trigger world since their inception in 1946. Although others have vied for competition shooter's attention, Timney has more than held its own, offering an ever-evolving list of trigger choices. With its 1.5-pound trigger pull, this weighs in as one of the best triggers for AR-15 competitive shooting as well as hunting.

Ultimate match-grade trigger is a term that is not bandied about lightly in shooting circles, and the Timney Calvin Elite is certainly included in that conversation. Aside from classic Timney quality, this trigger group offers a unique set of options in regards to its set-up. Those options come with the versatility of adapting the trigger shoe to match your circumstances. The trigger shoe can be quickly changed from flat, curved, heeled, or knurled. Therefore, the trigger assembly can quickly change from one geared toward fast, three-gun competition to a hunting application.

The triggers length-of-pull, height, and cast are easily adjustable in order to conform to your own body dimensions and mission specific needs. AR-15 trigger reviews list only positive experiences with the Timney Calvin Elite trigger. It's one caveat is its trigger pull weight. While a 1.5-pound trigger pull is ideal for hunting or competitive shooting, it may not be the best choice for a self-defense weapon. Of course, that simply gives you a reason to have more than one rifle. Additionally, to search out and find the best AR-15 drop in trigger for each one of them.

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Velocity Classic Drop-In AR Trigger

Pull-Weight: 3-lb or 4-lb

Price: $134.95


Velocity Classic Drop-In AR TriggerVelocity Classic Drop-In AR Trigger 1Velocity Classic Drop-In AR Trigger 2Velocity Classic Drop-In AR Trigger 3

At the times when our champagne tastes outweigh our budget, we all are in the market for a bargain. Possibly one of the best AR-15 trigger for the money, the Velocity Classic makes a solid showing. It's available in either three or four pounds of trigger pull to cover the competitive as well as the self-defense market needs. AR-15 reviews tout the trigger surface itself as a positive selling point. Velocity creates a Diamond-like carbon coating on the triggers surface. This results in a trigger with not only a solid feel but one with a superior, low-friction surface. Shooters of all persuasions report that the Velocity Classic drop-in trigger outperforms its higher-priced competition. The profile of the trigger shoe is available in either the traditional curved or straight design to match your personal preference and shooting style.

Tom Vehr designed and made triggers for Timney and Knight firearms for a combined 27 years before striking out on his own. Mr. Vehr started the parent company to Velocity, bringing decades of knowledge and experience with him. Best AR trigger designer is a title that Tom Vehr could easily wear. In regards to price-point and history, getting hold of a Velocity Classic trigger is just about like getting a Timney trigger at a bargain basement discount. The Velocity Classic AR drop in trigger is a reasonably priced solution to the problem of a gritty, creepy standard AR-15 trigger.

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JMT Saber Single-Stage Drop-In Trigger

Pull-Weight: 3.5-lb

Price: $94.95


JMT Saber Single-Stage Drop-In TriggerJMT Saber Single-Stage Drop-In Trigger 3JMT Saber Single-Stage Drop-In Trigger 1JMT Saber Single-Stage Drop-In Trigger 2

Putting together a super, high-end build is great and there is something to be said about having the best of the best. However, honestly just how many of us can afford to sink thousands of dollars into what is basically a recreational past time. This is the time and place to find areas where we can cut costs without cutting corners. James Madison Tactical stepped up to the plate with their Saber AR drop in trigger. This could possibly be one of the best AR-15 triggers for the money that will finish an outstanding build for the normal person.

In addition to its price point, the skeletonized trigger bears much consideration as to its weight if you happen to be going for an ultra-light, minimalist build. With a reliable, crisp break between 3.5 and 4 pounds, the Saber is a serious contender for a personal defense weapon. In this case, ultra-light doesn't mean uncomfortable. Its classic curved trigger shoe provides a perfect cradle for your trigger finger to find every time.

JMT is rooted in the aerospace industry and their attention to detail shows in the Sabers craftsmanship. They took their background and set out to create the best AR-15 trigger for the money available. Even at a price-point below $100, the Saber shines in the industries trigger reviews. JMT has engineered the Sabers function to feature break-points and reset points that are very close to each other. The resulting trigger lends itself to superfast shooting either as a PDW or at the range.

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ATC Adjustable Drop-In AR-15 Gold Trigger

Pull-Weight: 3.5-lb

Price: $279.00


ATC Adjustable Drop-In AR-15 Gold TriggerATC Adjustable Drop-In AR-15 Gold Trigger 1ATC Adjustable Drop-In AR-15 Gold Trigger 2ATC Adjustable Drop-In AR-15 Gold Trigger 3

The best AR trigger award could easily go to ATC. While it is on the high side as far as price is concerned, that price is quantified by its stellar performance. American Trigger Company steps to the head of the pack with their drop-in Gold Trigger. In their quest to create not only a high-end, reliable trigger for competition and hunting but a safe trigger as well. It is possibly the best AR-15 trigger you can get featuring revolutionary "drop-safe" technology. This means that the hammer is only going to fall when the trigger is pulled and not from an accidental drop.

When considering the best AR-15 drop in trigger you have to keep in mind that the trigger is essentially the brain of the weapon. That match-grade barrel and high-dollar bolt carrier group will never come into play if the trigger doesn't do its job. The ATC Gold Trigger has perhaps the shortest reset time in the industry. Therefore, it is widely considered to be one of the quickest triggers on the market. If your goal is lightning fast double-taps on target, then the ATC Gold Trigger bears a long look. Featuring a light, crisp, clean break for long-range shots and quick response for three-gun rip and grip competition, the American Trigger Company Gold Trigger is a pleasure to run. The only down-side mentioned in our customer’s feedback is that the ATC Gold Trigger is addictive and it will spoil you for anything else.

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CMC Drop-In Single Stage AR-15 Trigger Group

Pull-Weight: 2.5-lb, 3.5-lb, or 4.5-lb

Price: $167.99


CMC Drop-In Single Stage AR-15 Trigger GroupCMC Drop-In Single Stage AR-15 Trigger Group 1CMC Drop-In Single Stage AR-15 Trigger Group 2CMC Drop-In Single Stage AR-15 Trigger Group 3

While you really can't call anything built by CMC economy class, this trigger is arguably one of the economical best AR triggers for the money. This is a solid, no-frills workhorse that does its job well. When considering the elements you need when looking at the best triggers for AR-15 use, CMC hits every mark.

Depending on your particular needs, CMC offers up trigger-pull weights of 2.5, 3.5, or 4 pounds. So, regardless if your AR is meant for self-defense or competitive, long-range fire one of these triggers will definitely fit your needs. Trigger profiles are either the traditional, curved style or a uniquely designed flat model. The flat model features a hook on its lower, leading edge which provides a positive, index point for your trigger finger. Many shooters find that this lends itself to consistency and ultimately faster follow-up shots on target.

Among the best triggers for AR-15 modification, CMC includes features commonly found on higher-priced models. These include zero take-up, no overtravel, and a positive reset. This triggers reset is somewhat different in the way the shooter experiences it. It has an audible click and a tactile feel when trigger reset occurs. Reviews maintain that CMC has designed a very reliable, fast trigger that more than holds its own among the competition.

Instead of the standard machined, billet aluminum housing, CMC employs a formed metal housing in which to enclose their trigger group. This serves to keep costs, as well as weight, at a minimum while maintaining performance.

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Timney AR-15 Drop-In Competition Trigger Group

Pull-Weight: 3-lb, 4-lb, or 4.5-lb

Price: $214.11


Timney AR-15 Drop-In Competition Trigger GroupTimney AR-15 Drop-In Competition Trigger Group 1Timney AR-15 Drop-In Competition Trigger Group 2Timney AR-15 Drop-In Competition Trigger Group 3

Timney has long-since proven itself as a leader in the wonderful world of triggers. There is no surprise that Timney could easily be considered as one of the best AR-15 drop in trigger on the market. This classification doesn't come by accident. Every trigger group that Timney creates is tested and calibrated by hand before it ever gets to you.

This competition trigger is available in either flat or curved design. However, the curved offering has a profile that is markedly less curved than most others. Both trigger profiles are great performers and require only the least bit of practice to quickly become accustomed to.

Of course, catering trigger pull-weight to the individual shooters' needs is equally as important as any other feature. In keeping with industry standards, Timney offers this competition trigger group in 3, 4, or 4.5-pound trigger pull weights. Regardless of which model is inside your AR, there is one reality instantly obvious with a Timney trigger. That reality is the exceptionally smooth, crisp, creep-free trigger operation. When you squeeze a Timney trigger with your eyes closed you can easily imagine a great bolt-action rifle in your hands instead of a combat weapon. Customizing your AR trigger is both quick and easy when you choose a Timney Competition trigger group.

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Elftmann Tactical ELF Match Trigger

Pull-Weight: 2.75 to 4-lb (Adjustable)

Price: $249.00


Elftmann Tactical ELF Match TriggerElftmann Tactical ELF Match Trigger 1Elftmann Tactical ELF Match Trigger 2Elftmann Tactical ELF Match Trigger 3

Elftman makes their showing with a high-end competitor for the best AR-15 trigger on the market. They incorporate aerospace-grade needle bearings on the hammer and trigger to enhance their operation, creating extremely smooth, fast cycling. Additionally, performance is not sacrificed for speed because Elftman utilizes a full-power hammer spring. This ensures that even the hardest primers will reliably ignite every time.

With an eye toward making your rifle as safe as possible, Elftman has engineered a drop-safe design into their ELF match trigger. Therefore, the hammer is only going to fall when the trigger is pulled and never as the result of an accidental impact. This is true regardless of the weight you have decided to set the trigger.

When judging the best AR-15 trigger for adjustability, the Elftman flies to the front of the pack. It is fully adjustable from 2.75 to 4-pounds without removing the trigger group from the lower. Durable, smooth, and easily adjustable the Elftman Tactical ELF is a true match-grade trigger that hunters will appreciate as well.

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RISE Armament RA-535 Advanced-Performance Trigger

Pull-Weight: 3.5-lb

Price: $246.00


RISE Armament RA-535 Advanced-Performance TriggerRISE Armament RA-535 Advanced-Performance Trigger 1RISE Armament RA-535 Advanced-Performance Trigger 2RISE Armament RA-535 Advanced-Performance Trigger 3

Most high-end trigger groups have at least one area in which they shine. However, the RA-535 stands out from the crowd on several points. Not the least of which is its aesthetics for this trigger group looks every bit as good as it performs. The RA-535 is engineered for the serious target or competition shooter, or the person who strives to achieve that status.

Its trigger shoe is an interesting hybrid of a flat and curved profile. This combines the performance of a flat trigger with the comfort and control of a curved trigger. The trigger pull weighs in at 3.5-pounds, which many shooters find as a middle-ground for safe operation and accuracy. Smooth, crisp, clean, and quick don't seem to go far enough in describing the RA-535.

The triggers performance lives up to what you would expect from this level of a match-grade trigger. You will find the RA-535 to have a super-fast reset time that virtually ensures quick follow-up shots and target acquisition. RISE Armament deals itself into the market with a serious contender in the RA-535 Advanced Performance Trigger.

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RISE Armament RA-434 High-Performance AR Trigger

Pull-Weight: 3.5-lb

Price: $159.00


RISE Armament RA-434 High-Performance AR TriggerRISE Armament RA-434 High-Performance AR Trigger 1RISE Armament RA-434 High-Performance AR Trigger 2RISE Armament RA-434 High-Performance AR Trigger 3

Perhaps you have no intention of ever competing in the world of professional shooting, but you still want to improve on your AR's performance. The RA-434 gives you the opportunity to experience a high-performance trigger at a mid-range price. This trigger group won't break the bank, give endless pleasure for the casual shooter, and still enable you to step up at the range with the big boys.

RISE creates the RA-434 in adherence to the same rigorous standards as their higher-end models. This trigger group has a very quick reset and low overtravel which translates to speed. To further enhance lock-time it sports a lightened hammer. All that adds up to fun. Whether you enjoy this trigger at the range or casually busting targets at home doesn't matter, you will enjoy it.

We all know that guns can be dangerous. However, RISE designed the RA-434 with its renowned drop-safety feature. That gives you some peace of mind that your weapon is only going to fire when you want it to. There is no doubt that this RISE trigger group is a solid performer in its price range.

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Timney AR Targa 2-Stage Trigger

Pull-Weight: 4-lb (2-lb 1st Stage; 2-lb 2nd Stage)

Price: $214.11


Timney AR Targa 2-Stage TriggerTimney AR Targa 2-Stage Trigger 1Timney AR Targa 2-Stage Trigger 2Timney AR Targa 2-Stage Trigger 3

If you are seriously focused on long-range, precision shooting whether it be for competition or hunting, then considering a two-stage trigger is a must. Any time that a heartbeat means the difference in making that difficult shot, you will want a Timney Targa two-stage trigger under your finger.

Timney takes their superb trigger skills to the next level while managing to keep this trigger down to a very reasonable price. The first stage yields to only two-pounds of pressure and sets you up for the final break. When you have the perfect shot picture the second stage snaps away at only another two-pounds. You will be amazed at the very first shot squeezed off. The Timney Targa two-stage trigger allows you to eliminate bad accuracy stealing habits and lets your rifle do its job.

It is literally impossible to safely tune down a single-stage trigger to this point of performance. The Timney Targa two-stage trigger gives you legendary reliability and performance in a self-contained, pre-tuned trigger group. If I could lay a ridiculous title to this trigger group it would be advanced simplicity.

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Why Upgrading Your AR-15 Trigger?

When it comes down to it, most factory ARs come with a trigger that is gritty, creeps, takes forever to reset, and breaks anywhere from 6 to 8 pounds. This may be alright for a soldier in the bush or kicking in doors in the middle-east, but it certainly isn't conducive to pleasurable, accurate shooting. Therefore, if you are thinking about only one upgrade to your weapon the trigger is the obvious choice.


Why Choose A Drop-In Trigger?

That leaves you with the choice of buying a trigger kit, trying to assemble a jumble of parts, and then trying to tune everything. While that is possible, it is really not in the skill-set of the average shooter. Or, you can get a self-contained, pre-tuned trigger group from a reputable manufacturer and simply get the job done. When you go with the latter, you will reap the rewards of a custom trigger job in mere minutes.



Any of the trigger upgrades discussed in this article is certainly an improvement over the standard, factory trigger you now have to suffer with. However, you should take your individual needs in mind when considering just which one fits your life.

Trigger pull weight is one area where some people tend to go overboard. If your weapon is primarily meant for self-defense, then going too light on the trigger pull may not be the wisest choice. On the other hand, if you lean more toward long-range, precision shooting then a light single-stage, or even a two-stage trigger would better fit the bill.

Of course, money is going to come into play at some point. Many of us don't have unlimited funds to throw at our hobby. Although, I would much rather have some ugly furniture on my AR and spring for the best trigger I can. With most of us, it takes some trial and error to arrive at just the right combination.

In the end, it's a smart move to get the best quality parts you can afford from a respected supplier. Luckily, you can achieve both of these goals right here. Wing Tactical offers superb customer service, and it's our job to make sure you get exactly what you need.

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